Home Economy Canadians should rethink their opposition to private healthcare

Canadians should rethink their opposition to private healthcare

by SuperiorInvest

We should aim to ensure that health-related markets do not contain unnecessary barriers that increase costs

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Right or wrong, designers Medicare ruled that teeth, eyes, ears and medicines do not fall within the definition of medical care. Some would expand the public system to cover more—or even all—of these things. But perhaps Canadians should reconsider their opposition to the growing privatization of the broader medical system and focus instead on making health-related markets free of unnecessary barriers that drive up costs. We need more rational markets in the wider healthcare space.

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In the recent past, new entrants have reshaped markets to the benefit of consumers. Warby Parker Inc., a direct-to-consumer eyewear retailer, has transformed the eyewear market since its founding in 2010. Previously, the eyewear industry was essentially a monopoly of the European conglomerate EssilorLuxottica SA. Warby Parker started with a selection of five plastic frames for $95. Contact lenses also came directly to consumers a few years later, often with a subscription. Suddenly people had more options for their eyeballs and they haven’t looked back.

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It seems as if regulators have inadvertently closed health-related markets with excess complexity, stifling the creation of more Warby Parkers. Health regulation is usually in our favor. Too often, however, it creates and maintains barriers to entry. Of course we want clear and strong regulation of medicines and devices. Then, ideally, we want easy regulation that benefits consumers by allowing companies to legitimately compete on price.

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The most recent example of this market foreclosure in Canada is hearing aids. The United States no longer requires a doctor’s prescription or medical exam to buy most devices, a simple policy change championed by hearing-aid pioneer Mead Killion, started demanding 20 years ago. Nevertheless, Canadian authorities still support the barrier. Why?

Another industry in need of disruption is pharmaceuticals, especially as Canada considers a national pharmacare program. Pharmacare is ultimately a competition issue because it asks us to intervene in prices. Yet the federal Liberals they objected to Big Pharma three times when it comes to lowering drug prices. In the United States, Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drugs Co. — an an online startup founded by billionaire Mark Cuban — introduced huge savings for Americans. Are we over-regulating our market in favor of Big Pharma?

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In contrast, long-term care in Canada is largely unregulated, and we don’t dictate any requirements to dress those who want to call themselves long-term care facilities, proving that better competition isn’t always about over-regulation.

There is much anecdotal evidence that technology companies have the potential to streamline healthcare marketplaces with little or no risk to consumers beyond what already exists.

Align Technology Inc Invisalign and SmileDirectClub Inc. make cosmetic dental work more affordable. Maybe more braces should be 3D printed, like Lightforce Orthodontics Inc. is attempting to do so, and eye examinations will be performed through telemedicine powered by artificial intelligence, a.s EyeCare Live Inc. working on. Perhaps we could encourage more competition for the general diagnostic, genetic and naturopathic tests it performs LifeLabs Inc. We would certainly benefit from a better sharing economy for casts, crutches and wheelchairs, reducing out-of-pocket health costs.

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Consider, until recently, the experience of Canadians requiring sleep tests for common conditions such as apnea. Visiting a sleep lab, often found only in major cities and accepting appointments only after months-long waits, has turned many patients out of rural areas. Even worse, the disruptive effect of sleeping wrapped in wires in a strange bed further disrupted these patients’ sleep, and test results were often unreliable. Wearable technology has already made many sleep measures as good at home as in the lab, and the added diagnostic benefit of multi-night data is a real improvement. Regulations and reimbursement methods have hindered the adoption of home testing technology in sleep medicine and continue to do so, blocking access to better health for millions of Canadians.

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These changes would not target the billing rates of dentists, optometrists, or ophthalmologists, but rather seek to significantly reduce the cost of physical products and related overhead costs. These interventions would not go through changes to the Law on Economic Competition. Rather, they could be strategically focused on facilitating healthier markets by addressing regulatory moats and managing regulatory risks for a range of medical needs that are typically covered out of pocket. Elements such as medical testing and device rules and standards are routinely weaponized as barriers to competition and innovation. This actively harms consumers.

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Canada lacked a Czar with a keen eye for modernizing markets. However, with a whole-of-government approach exemplified by President Biden implementing decree on economic competitionCanada could unlock a health-related marketplace. We should focus on how regulatory capture in medical and health technologies and in their management and distribution is hindering consumer benefit. The The question is whether the nation is ready to really take the competition seriously.

Unfortunately, what we call “public policy” does not always reflect the public’s interest because the development process is so often co-opted by corporate interests. Patents and various intellectual property protections create exclusivity but also increase innovation. Direct-to-consumer health and wellness technology companies aspire to truly resolve this tension by cutting out the middlemen and going straight to you and me with radically transparent pricing models. Perhaps it is time to rethink the regulatory environment that governs the various health-related markets, get the regulators out of the way, and dethrone the incumbent companies that have been supported by a political environment that has allowed them to arbitrarily pump up prices and protect them from strong competition.

There is room for private technology companies to cut costs – we just have to do it.

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